Making mayonnaise is easy

 

mayo
Making mayonnaise is easier than you think.

For the first time ever, I made potato salad last week. Yes, I know, I am turning into such a Susie homemaker, but I don’t care. Enjoying good food does not make me any less of an independent-minded feminist. I’ve never been a huge potato salad fan, often equivalating it to other bland grocery store deli items like macaroni salad (yuck), but I had a bag of fresh, little potatoes bought at my neighborhood farmer’s market for only $1.50, a couple bunches of fresh dill, a carton of eggs, and Greek yogurt, which has been my favorite thing new twist in the kitchen this year. I use Greek yogurt all the time for salad dressing, in baby food, etc.

After my potatoes and eggs were boiled, cut, and seasoned, I got out my yogurt and saw I didn’t have much left in the container. I was home with the baby and I was scheduled to work later in the day, and I didn’t feel like taking a drive to the grocery store for only one item. I needed to be resourceful. Invention is the mother of necessity.

Looking around my kitchen, I found lemon juice, olive oil, coconut oil, mustard, salt, red wine vinegar, and more eggs in the fridge. I could make mayonnaise! I realized.

Why not? They make fancy garlic aioli at restaurants I’ve worked at. If they can do that, surely I could make plain ole mayo.

It was even easier than I thought. Here’s what I did:

Two egg yolks, two tablespoon lemon juice, one tablespoon red wine vinegar, one teaspoon dijon mustard, one teaspoon salt in the food processor. Press start let that run about 10 seconds before pouring in 3/4 cup of olive oil SLOWLY. Then I did another 3/4 cup of coconut oil SLOWLY.

As the food processor goes it whips it up into mayonnaise. Incredible to watch, it’s like magic! Mayo is just eggs and oil. You can use your oil of preference, I just used coconut and olive oil because that was what I had. Today I did this same recipe and used 1 1/2 cup of canola oil which is a much more neutral flavor, so it tasted more like what you might pick up at the grocery store.

I threw this homemade mayo into my potato salad and it was HEAVEN. Give it a try!

 

So many changes

My, my, how times have changed. It’s been a few years since I’ve written for Susan Eats the World, and I think it’s time to resurrect this blog because 1) I miss writing about food, 2) I have lots of food adventures to document, and 3) this blog is hella fun!

A few things that happened since my last post 3 years ago:

  • I worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in the Bakken.
  • I got surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.
  • I made friends with a Mexican family who owned the best taco truck ever.
  • I fell in love with a beautiful man.
  • I got pregnant and moved into an old Tudor house in Omaha that is pretty and NOT haunted.
  • I discovered pregnancy discrimination is a real thing and the fight for gender equality is far from over.
  • I gave birth to a boy who everyone always says is “so chill” in a surprised tone.
  • I joined a bacon club and published a feature on it.
  • I attended a food writers conference in Iowa City.
  • I ate lots and lots of great food in Omaha and discovered this little Midwestern city has a lot of diversity and some great restaurants. There’s a decent sized Thai community here, and we just celebrated Songkran (Thai new year).
  • I gained weight.

That last one has been a struggle. With more time at home with a baby, I find myself cooking a lot more. To me, food is life. I love to cook food, I love to eat it, smell it, taste it, feel it, knead dough with my hands, blow a spoonful of hot soup, mix spices, grill steaks, dip lobster in lemon and butter, get a bountiful supply of veggies at my farmers market, visit the Thai grocery store and make curry and tom yum…

Speaking of good Thai food, I made Thai chicken noodle soup this week, called “gua theywa” in Thai.

We had a tornado warning earlier this week. My baby and I sat under a desk under the basement and waited it out. We heard tornado sirens and wind outside. After all was clear, we went back upstair and upon seeing how gray and cool it was out, I decided it was the perfect time for a big, warm bowl of chicken soup.

I pulled out our dutch oven, filled it almost all the way with water, a large tablespoon full of Better than Boullion, 3 rib bones out of a gallon sized zip lock I keep in the freezer, drizzles of soy sauce and fish sauce, sliced fresh ginger, 3 smashed garlic cloves and 2 onions, chopped. I let that boil while I pulled a family sized package of chicken legs and defrosted it in the microwave. Once the chicken legs were defrosted enough to pull apart from each other, I placed them in the dutch oven and boiled for 15 minutes, then left it on low for about an hour. Makes the whole house smell soooo good, and it’s so easy to make.

When it was closer to suppertime, I prepared some rice noodles (boiled them separately, then rinsed with cold water), chopped up some fresh green onion, cilantro, and lime wedges.

Next, I pulled out a few chicken legs from the pot and chopped up the meat.

chicken2
Chopping chicken on the veggie side.

I pulled out my soup bowl and fill half of it with rice noodles, pour my onion-y broth over it, a handful of chopped chicken, cilantro, squeeze of lime, squirt of sriracha, and voila!

soup2
Homemade Thai chicken noodle soup.

One of my favorite soups of all time. The Thai grocery store by my house sells fried garlic in huge containers, so of course I keep that in the pantry handy to sprinkle over this soup. Why not? It adds texture and flavor, mmm!

Bacon Potluck

The other day I was having a late-night conversation with a friend, the kind where you talk about personal anecdotes and go off on tangent after tangent about anything and everything, from money to people to movies and TV to philosophy to poop to politics and healthcare and education and debt and the prison system in Norway and on and on we go. These kind of conversations are best done with someone open-minded, yet opinionated, sometimes with a cigarette in hand. (I am not a smoker but I love the way smokers leave crowded bars and parties and have their own fun little hang out together. Call me a smoker wannabe. I occasionally puff cigars, if that counts.)

So one of the tangents we got on was how we think we’re going to die. This was not as morbid as it sounds. We talked about it the same way someone would talk about the outfit they wanted to pick out for work the next day. 

There are several ways I could see myself going (car accident, old age, cancer, etc.), but after running through the options in my head I decided I’m probably going to die from bacon. 

I am not a fan of pork–in fact, it is my least favorite meat. It’s too dry, plus someone once told me that it’s the closest flavor to humans and that has always disgusted me. But somehow, bacon is still one of the BEST THINGS OF ALL TIME.

What is it about bacon that makes it so good? It’s the crispiness, the saltiness, the crunch in your mouth, the fat, the flavor, the fact that it’s so bad it’s good. One bite is never enough, I feel like I can keep eating it all day long. (Confession: sometimes I do. Like seriously, sometime it’s my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)

This weekend, I am happy (and somewhat guilted) to say I went to a bacon potluck. My friend John concocted this lovely quiche below. I gotta quit eating this stuff before I get a heart attack… but it’s just so good! 

Image

I had a stint this winter in Key Largo

When I left Key Largo in late January, it was 85 degrees and sunny. The people around me were sipping mojitos by the pool and working on their tans, or lounging around their boats. I filled my Fat Tuesday cup in Key West with unlimited piña coladas and partied with fun new friends in Miami nightclubs. Now that I’m back in Chicago, I spend my days wiping the snow off my car and trudging along icey pathways. The sky is gray and gloomy, the trees look like a stack of naked, dead sticks, and it’s not as much of an adventure being back in the same area you grew up. But I’m grateful–I have good reasons to stay for a little while, one of them being that Chicago is THE BEST foodie city in America! 

Key Largo’s food was superb, although Chicago has so much more variety. I mostly ate seafood in the Keys. I ate fresh lobster, oysters, dolphin (that would be a type of fish!), crab, scallops, south beach salads, conch, calamari, squid, oranges, coconuts, key lime pie, clams, mussels… excuse me, I’ve got to pause a minute, because just listing off the local foods of the keys is gettin’ me hot and bothered. I may or may not be heading in the direction of a foodgasm.

………………………………………………………………………………….

Okay, I’m alright. I swear. Although I really should quit kidding myself and just admit that as much Chicago pride as I have, I do miss Florida and its savory seafood. Upcoming post: a restaurant review of Chicago’s eco-chic Prasino.

The Art of Being Still

An English professor by the name of Silas House wrote an opinion piece about writing in the New York Times entitled Art of Being Still. He begins by saying that most aspiring writers he knows “talk about writing more than they actually write.” He makes a list of what writers do instead: attend writing conferences, post Facebook statuses, get a bad case of creative block, etc. And then he talks about how what they should actually be doing is master the art of being still and just write. And then he uses himself as an example of someone who is always writing, even when he’s busy, he’s writing in his head; even when he’s doing every day tasks such as bicycling or grocery shopping. He ends with a piece of writing/life advice his old teacher told him (“discover something new every day”) and then addresses the reader by telling them he hopes they take his advice and get their mind focused to think like a writer.

This Silas dude sounded a bit self righteous to me, but it was funny because I was browsing the Times in the first place as a way to procrastinate on writing. So maybe he made a fair point. Just a thought.

Finally off the ILC!

The very first thing I did when I arrived home from the ILC (Island of Limited Cuisine) was sit at my mother’s kitchen counter and devour all of her home Thai cooking.

Thai food that Thai people eat at home is different from Thai food that is served in Thai restaurants in America. It’s not that what’s served in the restaurants isn’t authentic–there is such thing as pad thai and tom yum soup in Thailand and those are great dishes. It’s just that the standard Thai restaurant in the U.S. is typically lacking some fundamental Thai plates.

For example, some food my mom whipped up (please excuse the spelling–not sure how they translate some of these in English so I just wrote them phonetically):

Soam Thaam
A spicy, shredded papaya salad. Usually served with a side of pork rinds. (You read correctly. Pork rinds. I thought that was just my mom being weird but I recently found out that it’s actually a part of her culture!)

Nam Pick
A heavily spicy dipping sauce.

Pla Doak
A certain kind of catfish caught in Bangkok. It’s usually fried and served with Nam Pick and sticky rice. This catfish has some pretty distinctive looking whiskers. The meat is soft and white.

Pickled stuff
There is always a bunch of pickled stuff in Thai and Chinese cuisine, like pickled fish, or cucumbers, or anything really, but how often do you ever see that on a menu? More Americanized dished like crab rangoon and orange chicken usually dominate.

Thai fruit
Thai people are so skinny, and it’s probably because after dinner they eat fruit instead of sweets and they also consider bread a rarely consumed “cun-nom” (dessert). While they have bananas and tangerines just like we do, usually they eat a bunch of tropical fruit most of us have never even heard of, like mangosteen, durian, rambutan, lychee, etc. These fruit are pretty much never offered in Thai restaurants around the U.S., probably for the best. Importing those fruits would probably make our eco-footprint even heavier and bring in a bunch of fruit bugs. (Although I have seen frozen durian at Asian supermarkets.)

Anyway, I am not complaining by any means. I love my creamy crab rangoon and a good dose of orange chicken! I’m just noting the difference between the Thai food my mother cooks at home and the Thai food served in restaurants in Chicago. It’s fascinating!

“Suck on my antidisestablishmentarianism”

The title above is a line from Eminem’s “Almost Famous,” and I feel that that line alone makes Eminem a bad ass.

There’s an interview Eminem did with Anderson Cooper that I think I’ve watch now about five times. In it, he talks about growing up poor in Detroit, his music, and his family. He also rhymes the word orange with like six words, which makes him even more bad ass than he already is.

It is no secret that I think highly of Eminem. I love his words, his style, his intensity, his message, his face. I’d like to think of myself as a respectful fan–not the kind to hang photos of him on my wall as if he were a god or listen to his music every day non stop or write to his publicist begging to meet him or stalk him when he’s on tour or read about his break ups or daughter or whatever else crazy fanatics do. I’ve never even been to one of his concerts, since I’m not much of a concert goer. (Although if the opportunity arose I would not pass.)

I just like what I know about him. If I ever bumped into him I probably would leave him alone and not chase him for a picture. Maybe just a meek, “Thank you for your contribution to art.”

(This may sound like a dumb thing to say, but I don’t know what else I’d say. It’s similar to what I did when I met Obama while he was campaigning in 2008–I shook his hand and said, “Thank you for running for president” and that was it.)

My favorite part of the interview is when Anderson Coopers asks Eminem, “What do you want?” and Eminem replies, with no hesitation and in utter seriousness, “Respect.”

STEAK

By July I thought my meat craze would fizzle out, but tonight I realized that I was mistaken.

Last night I was working at Iza when I saw our head chef, Stacy Jo, make two amazing red meat dishes, both off of our menu.

The first dish was the Flank Steak Salad ($12). I was drawn to the delightful pinkish color in the middle and how beautiful it looked sliced on top of a healthy salad. This was ordered by one of the musicians playing in the restaurant tonight.

The second dish definitely topped the first. It’s called the Singapore Ginger Beef ($16). Oh. My. God. I was speechless. I think I had walked in the kitchen looking for my co-worker and just happened to stumble upon dear Stacy Jo slicing up this one onto a plate for a customer. From the pan her ginger sauce pour all over the juicy, tender meat. It’s hard to stay professional and contain excitement when you see such a sight.

In witnessing my jaw dropping enthusiasm, Stacy Jo kindly cut off a sample for me. The description on the menu for this dish reads as so:

Thinly sliced beef wok seared with garlic, ginger, peanuts, scallion, black pepper, hoisin, and lemongrass.

So, so, so delicious. Sometimes it seems like samples always taste better than an entire dish, though. I think it’s because with samples it’s small and you eat slower and are just seeing if you like it, as opposed to a meal, in which most people are just trying to fuel themselves.

Immediately after work I stopped by the grocery store and bought two giants steaks. I went home and marinated them with everything I thought would taste good: garlic, soy sauce, a little barbeque sauce, ginger, lime, lemon, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar,  rosemary and basil. It sounded like too much, but I am a strong believer in taking risks when cooking. Failing is a step to success.

One great thing about marinating meat is the next day, when you pull it out of the fridge it it smells good and it’s been soaking in all the good flavors for so long and it’s ready for you, baby. Oh yeah.

I grilled in my backyard and had some friends over to help eat it. The complete meal ended up being:

Ginger Garlic Steak

So tender and juicy.

Lime Cilantro Rice

A simple side dish that complimented the meat pretty well. Jasmine rice buttered with lime squeezed all over plus chopped cilantro mixed in.

Sauteed onions

No explanation needed for this one.

Grilled pineapple

Pineapple provides a sweetness that contrasts well with the savory steak.

Cucumber salad

It’s always good to have a cold, refreshing side dish when serving a hot meal.

Yam Cutlets

Yams diced, salted, and baked in olive oil.

Master chef

I curiously watched an episode of Master Chef. Seems like a fiercely competitive show that kind of sucks the fun out of cooking. Entertaining, nonetheless.

One challenge for the show contestants was to replicate a catfish, yam fries, coleslaw dish by looking and tasting the original, but not knowing the recipe. The contestants are given one hour to get together the correct ingredients and to cook the meal.

It was interesting to watch because the meal was a Southern meal and the contestants are all amateur cooks from all around. One woman was an Asian-American from L.A. who had never cooked or eaten Southern food (which is too bad for her; Southern food is the most divine comfort food).

The best part: the Italian contestant. He poked the raw catfish and said, “I don’t like catfish, it looks like a cat.”